Live Review

Howler, Electric Circus, Edinburgh

Gatesmith is a frontman who looks like he is having the time of his life.

Ever since Howler emerged last year with a clutch of undeniably brilliant songs, an age old classic rock n roll look and the sort of carefree swaggering attitude that only the most young and carefree of bands can seriously pull off, they have been constantly dogged by comparisons to The Strokes. Tonight’s gig in the sweltering noise box that is Edinburgh’s Electric Circus provides a perfect example of how the Minneapolis four piece in reality, at least on stage, share little similarities with their famous New York forebears.

Howler is a band who take little seriously. They emerge onto the stage with frontman and constant engaging presence Jordon Gatesmith sitting behind the drum kit whacking out a rudimentary beat with a big grin on his face like a misbehaving child, while drummer Brent Mayes addresses the crowd and asks them who they would like to sing.

There is a joyful effervescence to Howler that is in stark contrast to the sullen stage persona of The Strokes. The band are also a far more scrappy and spontaneous proposition. Songs from their debut album ‘America Give Up’ are rattled through with wild abandon. Sing-along versions of ‘Beach Sluts’ and early calling card ‘I Told You Once’ are met with ecstatic receptions by the small but vociferous audience.

Unfortunately, the gig is dogged by sound problems with the guitars constantly going out of tune, the band’s embattled soundman playfully berated from the stage throughout the show. Whereas many bands would flit from the stage in a hot funk at these sorts of technical difficulties, Howler take it in good grace and laugh it off as their own fault for, in the words of Gatesmith, “Buying boutique guitars just because they are orange and blue. Maybe we should just buy guitars that definitely work instead.”

Gatesmith is a frontman who looks like he is having the time of his life onstage, and it’s an enthusiasm that transfers to the audience. Always ready with a joke in between songs, he indulges himself by asking the crowd to repeatedly shout ‘squirrel’ just for his own amusement, while also sharing anecdotes of his first experience of the surreal world of Edinburgh’s concurrent Fringe festival. Howler are more than jokey chancers though and there is real craft to their rock n roll thrash, much like their legendary city neighbours The Replacements. That craft is shown in tonight’s final song, the 50’s tinged bounce of ‘Back Of Your Neck’, which provides a rousing finish to a hugely enjoyable night.

Tags: Howler, Features

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